Lots of Chinese dishes are often served family-style. This means, instead of individual servings, there is a big dish in the middle of the table from which members of the family can get their servings. This way, when eating at a Chinese restaurant, you can order many dishes and each member of the group can have a taste of each one.
While there are indeed many different Chinese family dishes, we’ve listed down three of the most popular ones. These dishes can also be found in most Chinese restaurants in the United States.
- Kung Pao Chicken
Kung pao chicken is a spicy stir-fried dish originating from the Sichuan Province of southwestern China. The main ingredient is chicken cubes, but it also contains dried chili peppers, Chinese peppercorns, cucumber, and peanut kernels. The American version of the dish is often sweeter and may sometimes contain bell peppers as well.
If you’re ordering kung pao from a Chinese restaurant in America, you can expect a savory and sweet dish. It will also come with a mild spiciness. Since the American rendition of kung pao chicken will include peanuts, you can also expect a rounded nutty flavor when tasting the dish for the first time.
The recipe for the kung pao sauce will vary depending on who’s making the dish and from where. However, it will typically contain soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. If you want the sauce to be thicker, you can also add in some corn starch.
- Sweet and Sour
Sweet and sour has been commonly used in Chinese cuisine since the Tang Dynasty and is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in the United States. While sweet and sour pork is perhaps the most common version of this dish, you can actually substitute the pork with any other protein. For example, sweet and sour chicken and sweet and sour fish fillets are also popular menu items. There’s also sweet and sour tofu for those looking for a vegetarian or vegan option.
The classic Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork contains deep-fried chunks of pork. Again, you can substitute this with other proteins that are deep-fried. The dish also contains onions, bell peppers, and pineapple.
Originally, Cantonese chefs would use preserved plums and hawthorn berries in the sugar and vinegar sauce. However, in modern times, these are substituted with ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
- Mapo Tofu
Mapo tofu is sauteed tofu served in a hot and spicy sauce. The origins of the dish can be traced back to 1862 Sichuan, and it was considered spicy and pungent.
In modern versions of the dish, one would use tofu cubes along with ground beef or pork. What gives the dish its signature spice is a combination of Chinese red peppers and chili.
Some may find it difficult to try foods from other cultures. However, if you’re hesitant, the dishes above can be a great way to metaphorically dip your toes in Chinese cuisine. Once the door is open, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the different delicious Chinese dishes you can try.
Get the best Chinese food in Houston from Ocean Palace Restaurant. Opened in 1999 and located in the heart of Chinatown at the Hong Kong City Mall, Ocean Palace serves Chinese seafood and dim sum. On the weekends, traditional rolling carts of dim sum are paraded through the dining room with steamed and fried containers of different dumplings, chicken feet, tofu, tripe, sticky rice, ribs, noodles, egg rolls, taro puffs, baos, congee, clams, and more. Order online now!